Skip to main content

Are Schools Safe?

Recent tragic events have pushed conversations about school safety into the mainstream. Seemingly everyone, including the President of the United States, is weighing in with thoughts about how to make schools safer. An emotionally charged topic, it's crucial for school stakeholders to be well informed about school safety before proposing policy and procedural changes. In coming weeks, students will take part in social activism in the name of school safety and effective gun-control legislation. Interestingly, many students will be walking out of school, likely the safest place in their community, to make their point.

Contrary to social media exchanges and sensationalized news coverage, school safety in the U.S. has improved dramatically during the last twenty years.

“Children and youth are safer in school than almost anywhere else." - Dewey Cornell

School shootings and mass shootings are difficult to predict and prevent because they are statistically rare. Researcher, James Alan Fox, says, "There is not an epidemic of school shootings. More kids are killed each year from pool drownings or bicycle accidents." Today's students want to feel safe at school, yet they have grown up in an age of security checks and active-shooter drills. Fox believes fortifying schools provide unrealistic expectations for protection while instilling fear in students and staff. One student told me, "the danger must real if we are always preparing for it."



Procedural changes can be challenging and disruptive to other school-based processes. A strategy employed by my Change.School brethren is to initiate systematic changes by discussing beliefs, reviewing contextual factors, and examining current practices. This process allows schools to collectively appraise school safety and implement changes based on informed, mutually agreed upon, decisions.
  • What do school stakeholders believe about school safety? Do students and staff think they're safe at school? Is there an appropriate balance between protective measures and a welcoming school climate? What purposes does the school serve its community? To what extent should safety prioritized.
  • What are the environmental and social contexts impacting school safety? Are there circumstances placing the school at risk for violence? Is the availability of social services to students affected by the size of the school? Is there programming in place which encourages respect, responsibility, and interdependence?
  • Articulating beliefs and examining contexts will identify current practices effectively supporting school safety. Likewise, inadequate methods can be scrapped in favor of strategies backed by new knowledge. Most importantly, modernized practices are based on the transparent articulation of beliefs and an analysis of contextual evidence.
Reviewing research and scrutinizing safety practices does not mean we are trivializing tragedy, nor are we dissuading student activism. When leaders gather in meeting rooms, and students walk out of their schools, let's make sure conversations and actions have intentions based on fact, not sensationalized news or misguided social media posts. Effective change becomes possible when diverse perspectives are respected during our quest for truth and reassurance. 

Are schools safe? Statistically speaking, schools are very safe, and in the context of other mortality studies, schools have become better protected while other locations have become more dangerous. Maybe the better question is, "Do students and staff feel safe at school?" Be careful what you wish for if school policy and procedures are decided by outsiders. The people best qualified to make their school feel safer are the students, teachers, and administrators within the building. My recommendation for March 14th and beyond is for students to remain at school and engage in conversations about personal wellness, inclusivity, interdependence, and school climate. As is often the case, "the solution lies in the problem."

Related Reading: Student Protests: Questions and Answers, Usable Knowledge, Harvard Graduate School, March 11, 2018.

In Broward County, Student Voice Impacts the Classroom and Beyond, Getting Smart, Erin Gohl, March 13, 2018.

References:

"How Safe Are Our Schools?: Professor Dewey Cornell Traces the Roots of Violence." Virginia Magazine. http://uvamagazine.org/articles/how_safe_are_our_schools.

"PBL Blog." Reflections on School Shootings & PBL, and the Size of High Schools | Blog | Project-Based Learning | BIE. http://www.bie.org/blog/reflections_on_school_shootings_pbl_the_size_of_high_schools?platform=hootsuite.

"Schools Are Safer than They Were in the 90s, and School Shootings Are Not More Common than They Used to Be, Researchers, Say." News Northeastern Schools Are Safer than They Were in the 90s and School Shootings Are Not More Common than They Used to Be Researchers Say Comments. http://news.northeastern.edu/2018/02/schools-are-still-one-of-the-safest-places-for-children-researcher-says/.

Vosoughi, Soroush, Deb Roy, and Sinan Aral. "The Spread of True and False News Online." Science. March 09, 2018. http://science.sciencemag.org/content/359/6380/1146.full.

photo credit: Freaktography Abandoned Prison Upper Levels Urban Exploring via photopin (license)

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Grammarly Writing Hacks for Better Blogging

Writing is learning. It's taken me about thirty years to realize the metacognitive power of written expression, the same amount of time it took for me to recognize that my writing skills suck. Apparently, time in composition class was spent daydreaming and making silly faces at girls. Today, each post is an exercise of will power, unlearning and relearning prepositional phrases, comma usage, and when to use the ever-popular semicolon. Two hundred posts into my blogging adventure I've picked up a few tricks that add efficiency to my writing, things that make me appear smarter than I really am.


Freelance writer, Jennie Cromie, writing for ProBlogger.net, identifies five ways blogging can make you a better writer. Discover your voiceBuild social connectionsAcquire valuable feedbackBecome self-disciplinedWrite faster and more efficiently
Writing with intent to learn is the mindset to lead with. Using the right tools permits scatterbrains like me to focus on the message rather than un…

To Email, or Not

Should current students learn how to use email?


As someone who celebrates a clean email inbox about once every five years, I found it interesting that the topic of student email usage was on the agenda of our recent high school leadership meeting. The focus of this brief conversation concentrated on these questions.



How can we get students to utilize their school email account better? Should we be teaching students how to communicate with email?When and where should email usage skills be taught? Who's responsibility is this?Why do we want kids to check their email? Those around the conference room table agreed with the importance of students checking their email to stay informed about upcoming events and opportunities. Others mentioned it as being an important part of "digital executive functioning." Time was running short when someone said, "Kids don't use email."

This brief statement sent my mind scurrying in several simultaneous directions. 

First, thinking …

Finding the Fulcrum

In 2016, twice as many Americans obtained their news online instead of print. Approximately 3/4 of adult Americans interact with others through social media. Nine out of ten Americans are online, and a majority of these users are using time online to support personal or professional learning. I'm sure that I'm not the only person who finds it challenging to find a balance between personal and professional learning while online.


As time passes, an increasing percentage of the information and interaction that I seek in the name of learning is gathered online. The line between personal and professional learning is becoming blurred. I'm not sure if this is the result of time limitations, or professional ambitions putting the squeeze on personal interests. For example, I would like to start a podcast about pond fishing, but here I am writing about learning and education.

Reading Aaron Davis's recent post, "Templated Self", my perceived challenge of online time took …